One of Austen's most arch comedies, this epistolary novel follows the machinations of Lady Susan Vernon, a widow of extreme attractiveness and few compunctions. An early work, published posthumously, "Lady Susan" is lighter weight and less complex than Austen's better-known books, but fun reading.
reread Jane Austen's books every few years, and each time I read "Sense and Sensibility," I'm less and less satisfied with it.
The older I get, the harder I find it to enter into the early 19th-century outlook of young women whose only goal in life is marriage, and the more impatient with the forgiveness they grant to fickle and perfidious men. While the forbearance ultimately granted to the unprincipled Willoughby is slight, still, it's far more than he deserves.
"The whole of his behaviour," says Elinor to Marianne, "from the beginning to the end of the affair, has been grounded on selfishness. It was selfishness which first made him sport with your affections; which afterwards, when his own were engaged, made him delay the confession of it, and which finally carried him from Barton. His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was, in every particular, his ruling principle."
Yet, when it comes to Edward Ferrars, who has acted in pretty much the same way toward herself, if in a less blatant fashion — perhaps worse, because he was already engaged to marry another girl when he first met her — she's overjoyed to excuse, forgive and marry him.
This was Austen's first published novel, which she paid to have printed. Thankfully, her heroines become more progressive in her subsequent books.
Reading "Pride and Prejudice" a short while after "Cecilia," the Fanny Burney novel that inspired the title, I'm struck by how much funnier Burney's novel is. Austen's subtle irony at the expense of her society and its views of gender roles provides humor, but Burney's pungent satire is hilarious.
Austen's characters are annoying; it's easy to become frustrated with them. Elizabeth, for all her supposed intelligence, appears to think about little except men and her family, and her main superiority over the similar sensibilities of her mother and youngest sisters is that she does so less publicly.
It cannot be said her taste or discernment are notably greater than theirs, given her partiality, at first, for the undeserving Wickham. She doesn't see through him; she has to be shown. She comes to appreciate Darcy, true, but so does her mother.
I don't know — maybe it's just that I've read this novel so many times and it's lost its freshness for me.
Of Jane Austen's novels, "Mansfield Park" has less humor, and that darker, than her earlier works, which may be why it's less beloved.
The story of the Bertram family and their timid poor relations ation, Fanny Price, as combined with and contrasted to the lively, London-bred siblings, the Crawfords, has more depth, but the waspish, penny pinching Aunt Norris is really the only caricature, and her cruelty and ability to wound Fanny often makes her unfunny. However, Austen's insights into human nature and her characterizations are acute.